The ‘King” not ruling out Tiger
Arnold Palmer would not be surprised to see Tiger Woods get back in the winner’s circle at his Invitational at Bay Hill this week.
‘The King’ would not be surprised to see ‘The Tiger’ charge back into the winners circle at his Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this week.
Woods is already a six-time champion here with two of those victories coming back-to-back prior to his missing last year’s Tournament because of personal, off-course problems.
And while Woods has not tasted success for 16 months and has dropped to No 5 in the world, the Palmer family’s Bay Hill Club in Orlando has certainly been one of his happiest hunting grounds and if there is anywhere he could hit back, this could be it.
Tournament host Palmer told the media on Wednesday: “I’ve obviously been watching his game just like everyone else has.
“I feel like Tiger has a golf game that can come to the surface any time. I think that’s certainly a possibility here.
“He likes the golf course, he likes what we’ve done, so I would just not count him out at all. I think he’s capable of winning any time.”
Woods could be encouraged by that sparkling 66 in the final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami two weeks ago that earned him a Top ten finish..
But that week’s work at Innisbrook’s Blue Monster also contained a good few ups and downs – it included two of the worst drives the 35-year-old has ever hit – so right now anything is possible..
Woods is now seven months into his new, work-in-progress swing under Canadian coach Sean Foley, and Palmer admits he has been “a little surprised” by all the changes the 14-major winner has made.
Palmer said: “I’m not going to claim to be an expert about his swing. I thought that the first few times that I played with him on the Tour, way back when he first came out, he had a great swing and I thought he had a great posture.
“Obviously he didn’t win all of those tournaments without having those things.
“So changing? Well, that’s up to Tiger. I don’t want to inject anything into something I don’t really know enough about.”
Phil Mickelson, without a win himself since last April’s Masters, added this week’s event to his schedule after finishing way down the field at Doral.
“Any tournament that I played in before or after Augusta or any other major championship was to me a very important event,” added 81-year-old Palmer.
“If I was playing good and winning tournaments I always felt pretty good going to Augusta. I think that’s just a confidence-builder and I think that would apply to any player in the field.”
Both Woods and Mickelson have had putting problems and of this Palmer said: “I can tell you that it becomes more and more difficult as you get older.
“I can’t say that I know anybody that doesn’t have that happen to him at some time. All of a sudden, once in a while, the bounces go the wrong way or the putts rim around the cup rather than going into it.”
Woods, in the meantime, is hoping to justify Palmer’s faith in him and simultaneously disprove his age-and-putting theory with a much improved performance on the Bay Hill greens this week – enhanced, he hopes, by his return to some old putting drills he used to work on with his late father Earl..
“I went back to all of my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on,” he said on the eve of his final event before 2011 Masters in a fortnight.
“And that’s when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid, my speed became better.
“It feels natural, because I’ve done it for so long. I just got away from it and now I’m going back to it.
“I don’t know what that dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting and he knew my stroke. My dad really knew my stroke.
“I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that certainly.”
Earl Woods died five years ago and his son reckons he has become a streaky putter ever since.
“I would get on runs for two or three tournaments in a row where I would really putt well and then I would just lose it.
“It goes back to not practicing as much. I took for granted my putting and didn’t really spend a lot of time doing it.
“I expected to go out there and putt well every day. I’ve got to log in the hours, so I went back to doing that and this year I’ve putted much better.”
Under new coach Sean Foley the 14-major champion has also embarked on what he admits are the biggest swing changes of his career – to the surprise of many.
“It’s taken a little bit of time, but then again I’ve showed some good signs of late,” said Woods, who charged to 10th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship after a closing 66 in Miami two weeks ago.
“That was back to what I know I can do. I’ve had good practice sessions, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
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